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The Different Shades of the Agile Coach

Is an agile coach a coach all the time? Yes and no. Sometimes, being a coach also means taking on additional simultaneous roles. In an article for Scrum Alliance, Christine Thompson discusses four different modes of agile coaches and how to shift between them.

Coach for Every Occasion

First, there is the traditional coaching mode. Coaches guide teams by way of making observations and asking pointed questions, which leads teams to arrive at solutions on their own. Coaches actually do more listening and observation than speaking, in Thompson’s estimation. When they do speak, it is to adjust the team’s mindsets.

Another mode for coaches is that of the mentor. This is actually pretty similar to the traditional coach function, except mentors talk more directly about their own past experiences in order to help mentees learn. Mentors also get more specific about helping people chart their growth from point A to point B.

A third mode for coaches is that of consultant. Consultants, when asked by the team for help with a challenge, will actually recommend a solution—which is a total reversal of the traditional coaching role. When to use this mode is your call.

Similarly, a fourth and final mode Thompson discusses is that of teacher, where the coach gives the team general background information instead of specific solutions. The teacher mode comes into play during training. Thompson offers further elaboration on when to shift into different modes with this:

One excellent way to know which style to use is to ask the coachee up front about their expectations from the conversation. If they simply want information from you, coaching them to find this themselves may not meet their needs. Let them tell you in advance what they are looking for and what their expectations are. Once you know this, this does not stop you from varying your style, but it at least gives you context for a starting point.

Throughout the conversation, the coach must be ready to change their style on the fly, as the discussion progresses. If, during a coaching-style conversation, a perfect teaching opportunity arises, there is no need to stick rigidly to a coaching style when switching to a teaching style would benefit the coachee.

You can view the original article here: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2018/january/the-many-hats-of-the-agile-coach

About John Friscia

John Friscia was the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success from 2015 through 2018. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and grew in every possible way in his time there. John graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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